Lonely At The Top
by Vernon R. Heard
As I get older and realize that my family elders have gone home, it dawns on my that I AM one of the new family elders. All the relationships fostered and maintained, the family history, family reunions, and our essential roots are now my responsibility and the responsibility of my cousins and relatives my age. I took for granted that keeping those relationships alive was innate but I see now that it takes effort and a drive to keep those bonds alive and connected. I realize my cousins have adult children that I don't even know. My siblings and I have children our cousins' kids don't know. Are not even aware of. The unity and corresponding sense of community is pretty much disconnected.
I found a Facebook group the young branches of our family tree had formed and I didn't know 90% of the people in the group. They were mostly kids and grandkids of my uncle in Arkansas but the disconnect to his siblings, my mom and other uncle, was obvious. I joined the group and they were delighted to learn about my mom, my grandmother (their grandpa's mother) and others in the family that they never knew. Vibrant personalities with loads of family history that they didn't know existed. Of course, I was happy to share and upload pics and stories.
It just hit home in the moment that as the new elders in the family there's a responsibility to keep our stories and connections alive. When I look around and see that there aren't many elders I can draw from, it's a little disconcerting. To know that you have an obligation to keep the thread to your family history intact and passed on is a little daunting. I'm not even 100% sure I even WANT to be charged with the task but my grandma and mother told me a lot of stories about our family dating back to the end of slavery. Information that will die with me and my cousins if we don't make the effort to educate our younger family.
I'm going to make the effort to ensure our new family tree branches have all the family history. Not necessarily through a brain dump but by fostering relationships with newfound extended family and getting to know them. And vice versa. I like the idea of the Facebook group so I think I will be active there to represent the branch of the family I am most familiar with. I'll invite by siblings to participate as well.
It's lonely at the top when the baton has been passed and you are one of the elder gardeners
tending the family tree. One of the lessons
I've learned is that you don't have to play catch up if you maintain family connections. Know your family. Don't let your family's history die on the lips of your mother or grandmother. Don't leave it up to Ancestry.com to tell you who you are. I guess they have their place but YOU can ensure that names and anecdotes live on. I plan to digitize old pics to make sure that paper photos are archived beyond a photograph's lifespan.
Honestly, I don't know what all I'm going to do but I recognize I have a role to play and I want to do my part.
Family perseveres. Love lives on.